Investors last week enjoyed the announcement and subsequent afterglow for the Federal Reserve's much-anticipated third round of quantitative easing. Chairman Ben Bernanke has kept QE3 open-ended, meaning the Fed will continue to buy various securities to push rates lower and hopefully spur investment. While this may not get the economy jump-started given the uniqueness of the crisis, at least the Fed has stopped sitting on its hands and is doing what it can, with limited ammunition left.
Today, all three major indexes are catching their breath after topping multiyear highs in the wake of seeing that Bernanke and his European equivalent, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, are willing to do basically whatever it takes to prop up the markets. With stronger actions from politicians, let's all hope the monetary policy will do more than just jump-start another bull rally.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) finished off 40 points or 0.3%, essentially equal to the S&P 500's similar 0.3% decline. On the Dow, profit-taking from last week's gains can be seen in full effect. The two largest decliners, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) and Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) , both down 2.6%, notched 8% gains last week, directly benefiting from the Fed's aggressive monetary policies. It's fitting that B of A had a slightly worse day on the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Meanwhile, infrastructure specialist and QE3 beneficiary Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) , which gained more than 5% last week, was caught in the same sell-off -- although a sharp manufacturing decline noted by the New York Fed couldn't have helped. Cat declined 1.3% on the day.
The Nasdaq, which after the morning session was sitting on the biggest decline, rallied back to close down less than 0.2%. Credit goes partially to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , which, after being up 1% on the day, has topped $700 per share after hours in anticipation of Friday's iPhone 5 release. With 2 million pre-orders already on the books, double its previous high, Apple is gearing up for an incredible launch weekend.
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